OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles were on the cusp of an impressive comeback, desperate to win their first road series in three months.
One perfect throw stopped it all.
Pinch-runner Blake Davis was tagged at the plate by former Cal State Fullerton teammate Kurt Suzuki for the final out, and the Oakland Athletics held on to beat Baltimore 6-5 on Wednesday.
Right fielder David DeJesus, who had just come into the game, cut down Davis for the dramatic finish after bobbling the ball.
That denied the Orioles their first road series victory since mid-May.
“If he hits the cutoff man he’s probably safe,” Showalter said. “He’s got some arm strength and we made him throw him out. Most of the time that ball won’t be that accurate.”
Suzuki also hit a pair of home runs against Orioles starter Alfredo Simon (3-6).
Brandon Allen tripled and scored on the same play and also had a sacrifice fly for the A’s, who snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday night and followed that up with another victory for a winning series.
DeJesus — who entered as a defensive replacement for the final inning — flubbed Nick Markakis’ RBI single but recovered to make a strong throw to Suzuki, who tagged Davis to deny the Orioles the tying run. It also preserved Andrew Bailey’s 15th save after he gave up three hits in the ninth.
DeJesus held his breath as he watched the play unfold.
“I’m just hoping that he was out, ‘cuz that would have been ridiculous,” he said. “I came in for defense and was able to make the last out, even though it was crazy.”
Home plate umpire Dan Bellino asked Suzuki to “show him the ball,” and the catcher obliged. And the out call finally came.
“In my mind it took about an hour for the ball to get to home plate. He bobbled the ball, but you have to keep your wits about you,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin, who has been preaching staying poised after a defensive blunder. “He made a heck of a throw. We’ll take it.”
The Orioles were trying for a winning season series with Oakland for the first time since going 8-3 in their 1998 matchups. The A’s won this year’s meetings 5-4.
Suzuki also hit two home runs on June 3, 2010, at Boston. Seven of Oakland’s nine hits went for extra bases.
Baltimore wanted to force extra innings. Davis got the go signal from third-base coach Willie Randolph and charged toward home.
“He had a good throw, the ball beat me,” Davis said. “I tried to go around the tag and he blocked the plate pretty good. You can do that or you can just try and run him over. … Looking back, it probably would have been a better idea to just probably go right into him, especially being the tying run.”
Adam Jones had a sacrifice fly and Vladimir Guerrero, a familiar Oakland nemesis from his days with the rival Angels, added an RBI double as Baltimore took a quick 2-0 lead in the first.
The A’s loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half against Simon. Jemile Weeks led off with a single, Coco Crisp walked and Hideki Matsui hit a bloop single into shallow center. Josh Willingham followed with a two-run double when the ball was misplayed by left fielder Nolan Reimold, and Allen’s sacrifice fly made it 3-2.
Allen is quickly becoming a reliable regular since the A’s acquired him from Arizona at the trade deadline and called him up from Triple-A Sacramento on Saturday. Starting the past five games, he is batting .533 (8 for 15).
Allen keeps doing his part — and then some. He tripled for the second straight day and scored on the third-inning play. Leaping center fielder Adam Jones made an error when Allen’s ball came off the wall and bounced over his head. Jones then bobbled the ball trying to pick it up from the ground.
J.J. Hardy ended an 0-for-18 funk with a first-inning single off Brandon McCarthy to get Baltimore going. But it didn’t last as the Orioles gave the runs right back in the bottom of the inning.
Markakis hit a solo homer in the sixth and Josh Bell had an RBI single in the seventh that chased McCarthy. The right-hander allowed four runs and eight hits in six-plus innings.
Fautino De Los Santos and Grant Balfour each pitched a scoreless inning before Bailey survived the rocky ninth.
“Awesome,” Bailey said of the ending. “That made it a lot less stressful.”
Baltimore won the series opener Monday — the Orioles’ seventh time doing so on the road this year — but has gone 1-14 in games after that the last seven times it took the first game.
The Orioles have dropped 16 of their last 20 road games and have lost 10 of their last 12 series finales.
“It’s been frustrating,” Jones said. “We’ve played good baseball at times, it’s just the luck of the draw has not gone our way. It’s unfortunate. But it’s not going to deter us from going out there and playing the game as hard as we can play it every day.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)